Posted by: Cacille | March 18, 2012

Bringing Birds to Korea

Okay. Call me crazy but I love my birds, and there was no way in hell I’d leave my birds. One of them is just too attached to me, and the other is too funny to not have with me. So if I was going to Korea, I wanted to make sure that taking household birds would be allowed.
It was.
But oh my god…the process to get them over here was insane and almost impossible anyway, and it had nothing to do with lack of planning. It was simply that no one had any F-ing CLUE about ANYTHING having to do with importing birds and if it was different than dog or cat importing. So this is how it was done. I hope it helps you with bringing your pet to Korea.

First things first. Dogs, cats, and only certain household birds can be brought to Korea without some insanely time-wasting paperwork called CITES documentation. Basically, if you have a dog or cat, you can pretty much bring any animal if the airline allows it. Focus on that last sentence. AIRLINE. Check airline policies second after checking that your exact type of pet can be allowed in the country.

So after doing a lot of research, I made a vet appointment to get the birds microchipped. Some of my research mentioned that microchipping would be necessary in a few years so best to get it done while still in the USA. After the vet ordered the type of chip necessary for both international travel AND small enough for cockatiels, they were microchipped and held for a few hours. I’m not sure the birds ever noticed anything. I registered the paperwork and rested for a while.

In the meantime, more research about birds, learning about Korea, figuring out this potential job, getting in my own paperwork, etc. I called Korea and got sent some paperwork concerning animals, although it wasn’t quite clear because it was more for dogs and cats. It still helped a bit.

It wasn’t until I started doing airline research that things started apart. And then falling into place. I wanted my birds to be carry-on only. Most american company airlines were insanely restrictive for international flights. Hold on, I’ll mention some of them here.
American Airlines – No pets for international flights at all.
Delta Airlines – Allows cats, dogs,birds. One pet per passenger $200 fee – even if the crate is one of your two allowed carry ons.
United Airlines – Allows cats, dogs, birds. One pet per passenger. $125 fee.
US Airways – No pets on international flights.

I should mention that cargo travel for birds was allowed, but not during dead of winter or heat of summer. This was the dead of winter – the birds would not have survived the trip going in cargo, and doubtful they can survive cargo during spring/fall when they are 30,000 feet in the air and it is -30F or more that high! I should also mention my travel arrangements were to go from St. Louis to Busan. There were the four airlines that serviced St. Louis. on the approximate dates I needed to leave. None of them allowed more than one bird per crate. Some had restrictions on crate size, which is fine…till I looked up that NO SUCH CRATE EXISTED IN THE GIVEN PARAMETERS THE CRATE NEEDED TO BE. And that was just more than size, but how the danged thing locked as well. Sadly, I could find no way around the restrictions.

So I said screw it, I’ll leave out of Chicago and take a Asian airline of some sort, they might be less restrictive. Sure enough, I checked Asiana, Air China, and one or two others. Asiana had a pet policy, but they allowed up to two animals in a crate, had a fee of course ($250), and had restrictions on sizes of containers, but at least the restrictions were of a nature that crates actually existed for them. Keep in mind, I had to have a hard sided crate for these birds. I ordered a crate and called Asiana. After getting a little info from one nice, decently-english-speaking lady, she said she would email me some documentation they had. It didn’t arrive in my email.

Then one of my birds fell VERY ill. He started throwing up while sitting on my knee one day. He was at the vet’s in less than 30 minutes. The vet did some tests and found out he had a gut infection, gave him an injection, and kept him overnight. The whole next week, I had to feed him medicine. He did recover quickly, thankfully, and in the meantime I had called back to Asiana to get that documentation. I ended up with a natural english speaker by the name of Elisabeth. Oh…my….GOD that woman was the most helpful person on the planet. I mean, the other lady was nice and helpful, but this woman…was AMAZING. She looked up info, checked with her boss and her boss’s boss about things, she got me prices, got me the info I needed to have, documented my situation in her notes, etc.

I will now list for you the info I found out that you will need to know, or have, if you are bringing birds.
1. Korea uses Quarantine letters. You will need a Quarantine Letter for each pet, individually.
2. Korea uses the USA’s APHIS documentation. This is a 6-page set of differently colored carbon papers. Each paper goes to a different person – one to your vet, one to you, one to the customs people at the airport, etc.
3. Korea requires NO pet quarantine for birds. The quarantine and APHIS papers (and therefore the vet visit) must be done prior to 10 days before your trip.
4. YOU MUST get permission from the airline headquarters to bring your pet on board a airplane. This must be done between 7-10 days before your trip.
5. Airlines often have restrictions as to how many pets can be on a flight. Check to make sure your flight is not already filled up with pets, as sometimes the number of allowed pets is only 4-5 per flight. This is pets on the plane in total, not just your pets alone.
6. It is a good idea to have your pets microchipped as it may be required in the future for them to be on a flight.
7. Make sure it is written on the documentation that your birds are NOT a endangered breed. This is insanely important. The CITES list is a list of birds considered to be on the endangered species, regardless of how common they are bred in america or other places. Here’s the rundown: All parrots (Psittaciformes), EXCEPT for peach-faced lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis), cockatiels (Nymphicus hollandicus), and budgies (Melopsittacus undulatus, also known as parakeets and budgerigars) are on the CITES list. If your bird is not one of those lucky three, you’ll have to get some additional paperwork that may take up to 6 months to get.
8. You will need to make a trip to your local USDA office (which may be near your state capitol’s city) to get your bird’s APHIS documentation certified. Plan for that. And they close very early in the day. Get there early, with a few days to spare. I almost didn’t make it, cause I found out last minute. I cut it close, with only about 20 mins to spare as I lived about 3 hours away from the office.

Thankfully the trip is now finished and done. I ended up driving with a friend up to Chicago, leaving on an asiana flight which went direct to Seoul, I got off there, got on the commuter train to seoul station, got onto the KTX train there and headed for Busan. I was picked up by my recruiter and taken to the hotel for the night. My birds didn’t have even the slightest problem with the airline or the whole trip which lasted well over 24 hours total. The birds had no problem with rising into the air or coming down, with pressurization or anything. They barely chirped at all on the flight save for at the end when they were bored absolutely senseless. Getting through customs and Quarantine / import was a breeze, as everything was in order and correct on the paperwork. Oh, and the TSA people in Chicago were a blast. We had to go into the private room, where the birds had to be let out of the crate, and those TSA agents had a BLAST seeing the birds and hearing about our little journey to come. The Asiana staff were great and even let me into their little back prep room to let out the birds, where they took some camera phone pictures with the birds on their shoulders. It was a calm, easy trip thanks to the preparation done ahead of time by me, Elisabeth at Asiana, and the Southwick veterinary people (especially Linda)

Helpful Links:  This link. God I wish I had found this link before my trip. In all of my research, it never came up. Which means that others aren’t finding it as well. Which is why I’m posting this post. The more info, the more likely it will be to be found by those who need it.  This was the vet that got so much info, was so helpful, and took great care of my birds and getting the paperwork straight. If you need information, call these people. I doubt anyone there will forget me anytime soon, so just mention you found some info about a lady who went to Korea with birds, and you had a few questions. Make sure to pay them for their time – I spent $300 at this vet JUST for the research and paperwork and appointment I had to do. They are nice people so go to them and give them your money if you need their advice! By the way, they have also done this process for cats and dogs going to other countries as well.



  1. This web page is considerably more informative than any other on the subject on the internet. Thank you!

    Birds have to be quarantined prior to departure…how is this requirement satisfied? Do you pay to have them put up somewhere, and then pick them up prior to your departure?

    • I did not have to do the quarantine, assuming you are also bringing common household birds to Korea, you won’t have to either. The requirement was for dogs and cats, but birds fell out of the requirement as long as you did the health certificate within 10 days of the travel time. Note: I did this process 4 months ago at this point, I doubt things have changed. However, make sure to call the airline, or, the quarantine place to the country you are traveling to, to make sure this is still the case.

      • I see. What is the purpose of the “quarantine letter,” since the birds do not need to be quarantined? Is it just to confirm that the birds are in good health (i.e. disease free) and that therefore they are safe to admit to the country? Thank you again for taking the time to reply to my comment.

      • Yes, exactly. It’s to confirm that they are disease free, and they can see it is done by a professional. AND it is confirmed to be a professional by the USDA stamp thing. So what type of bird(s) are you bringing? I can tell you a bit more helpful info that I didn’t know about till i got here. Send me an email at (I’ll take my email off here once you send me a email)

      • And is the “quarantine letter” mentioned in the body of the blog post the same thing as the “health certificate”? Yes, the bird I am bringing is a common pet, as it is a Peach-Faced Lovebird.

      • Yes, If I remember correctly, it is. Basically the only paperwork you will absolutely need is the APHIS documenatation (a 6page color coded document) and the Quarantine letter. Anything else you bring will be for your own needs. I brought my bird’s health records as well. That Aphis document is the most important piece of paper your bird will ever have. It’s just as important as our passports, if not moreso. If you lose that document, you can never prove your bird was originally from the USA – and it’s harder to bring the bird back, surprisingly. The USDA office should also give you a number that you will need to call before you leave Korea (assuming you’d be traveling home with your bird!


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